Posted by: patenttranslator | November 17, 2011

J’accuse HP of Stupidity!

My two sons gave me the Hewlett-Packard TouchPad tablet as a present for my birthday in August. Since they are barely out of their teens, they don’t have much money to spend on something like that and the 420 dollars they paid for my new toy was a lot of money for them. I remember that Casey, the older one, said when he was registering the product for me because he can do things like that much faster than me:”We figured we would go with HP because they’ve been around a long time. It’s a safe choice”. Well, they figured wrong. A few weeks later, Andy, the younger one, called me to apologize for having made such a bad choice with their present. HP just announced that TouchPad  would be discontinued and its price was slashed from 400 to 99 dollars.

I don’t know why HP decided to hit the kill switch on this product. It is really an excellent product and I am enjoying using it. I tried an Android tablet, which was fine, but every new application had to be downloaded first. HP Touchpad had everything that I needed right out of the box! I am just guessing that the decision had to do with some sort of short term profit for the company that would translate into a higher bonus for the company’s CEO. Incidentally, HP has gone through 5 CEOs since 2005, each of whom seems to have made a number of disastrous decisions, starting with Carly Fiorina, and ending with Léo Apotheker who apparently was responsible for the decision to scrap HP Touchpad.

As a freelance translator for almost three decades, I have owned 4 HP printers, 3 of which are still working, and 3 HP laptops, each of which worked very well for quite a few years. I still have 3 HP desktops in my office at this time. But my confidence in the Hewlett-Packard Company has been gradually undermined over the years. I remember that I was searching in vain the manual for my printer (or was it a laptop?) for a toll free number to contact HP support. When I finally found it through Google, I talked to somebody in the Philippines who helped me to solve my problems. Her English was actually not too bad as far as phone support goes these days.

I have been gradually replacing HP printers by Brother and Canon printers. I now have 4 networked multifunctional Brother and Canon printers in my office. There are so many functions in these printers, which I also use for copying, scanning and faxing, that every time when I install a new one, I have to call support. When I call Canon, which is a Japanese company, the call is not answered in India or the Philippines, but right here in Chesapeake, just a few miles from me. And the number to call is always prominently displayed in the manual.

I really like it when a company cares about its customers. And I really hate it when it doesn’t. And I tend to remember things like that. I remember that when I had a problem with a lightweight typewriter that had built-in memory in 1986 in Tokyo, I took the typewriter to the impressive headquarters of the Canon company to ask for advice because it was not far from my office. The uniformed guy on duty at the desk made a short phone call, a Japanese “salaryman” dressed in a suit and tie appeared from the elevator within a few minutes and showed me what the problem probably was. That’s what I call customer service, I thought to myself.

The decision to abandon HP Touchpad made three people really mad at HP just in my family. Hewlett-Packard probably lost three customers for good because of this decision. I usually go through a number of electronic toys for myself every year (a new cell phone, Internet radio, HD radio, iPod), not to mention things that I really do need, such as computers and printers. Needless to say, my kids must have inherited this particular gene of mine.

I am pretty sure that I will stay away from anything that has the HP label on it from now on and so will my kids. Whatever I will buy from now on should meet these three criteria: 1. it should have all the bells and whistles that I am looking for, 2. it should not be too expensive, and 3. it should not be an HP product.

When I listen to people calling in on C-Span (a cable TV program about politics), I often hear callers imploring people to buy only American products, whether it is a shirt or a car, to get our economy moving in the right direction again.

But what is the difference between a foreign car, let’s say Toyota or Honda, and an American car, such as Ford? If the Japanese car was manufactured in South Carolina, and the American car was manufactured in Mexico, which one of them is foreign made? The main difference really is that the profit from the sale of an American or a Japanese car will either stay here or go to Japan.

According to statistics, American CEOs make about 400 times the salary of an average worker, German CEOs about 20 times, and Japanese CEOs make about 10 times what their workers earn.

Which probably explains why Japanese companies can afford to take a long-term view of product development, and why they have enough funds to pay for product support provided over the phone by employees who contribute to the local economy right here in my hometown.


  1. Those CEO salary comparisons are quite eye-watering. Is there really such a disparity between the USA and other developed countries? Incidentally, do the stats you mention include CEOs in the UK (where I’m from)? I’d be interested to know where we fit in. Nearer the US than Japan, I’m guessing.
    I agree with your philosophy re customer support. That’s the main reason I’ve stayed with my bank so long – Friendly, knowledgeable UK-based customer support 24/7 – quite rare these days.


  2. Hi Matt:

    I don’t know how accurate these numbers are, and I don’t know how much CEOs in UK make either. I think you are probably correctly assuming that they are closer to US than to Japan. But nobody and nothing beats the greed of American CEOs!

    I remember that I heard the 400 : 20 :10 ratio mentioned in a call-in program on C-Span by some expert on CEO compensation.

    You can also find a number of sites that have the 400 number on Internet if you Google it.


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